In my decades of editing, I’ve come across a vast array of writing problems that I could easily correct, and maybe teach the writer something in the process. I can correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Most writers learn from the experience. But the one problem I’ve never been able to fix is a writer’s lack of logical thinking. I may be able to rewrite an illogical sentence, but I have never been able to change the thinking of the writer who constructed the nonsensical passage.
I was reminded of that when I read this opening paragraph on Yahoo! Style:
The writer contends that Karl Lagerfeld can’t be 100 years old because he has no adult children. That faulty assumption was based on a quote from Mr. Lagerfeld. But Mr. Lagerfeld said (at least according to the writer), that adult children made one look 100. Knowing that the designer has no adult children, what can you derive about his appearance? Nothing. About his age? Nothing. It’s a problem in thinking that I’d be challenged to correct.
The rest of the errors in the paragraph are easy to fix. (What’s difficult is trying to imagine how a professional writer could make them in the first place.) I have no problem with the word umpteenth, except that the writer meant umpteen.
I have no idea how “your new fashion newspaper” is related to the fashion labels it’s lumped in with. And a dozens could be charitably called a typo, though I’m not sure it is.
Does Mr. Lagerfeld own a Graf Zeppelin, a great white shark, and a copy of “Weird Al” Yankovich’s “Dare to Be Stupid”? If not, then he doesn’t literally have everything. Just get rid of that word. Or do I have to explain the logic behind that, too?